In An About-Face, PM Janša Continues EPPO Shitshow

No sooner than pengovsky thought the madness had abated somewhat, the Janša government went full retard once again. Mere days after it had briefly reconnected with reality and acknowledged the two Slovenian delegated EPPO prosecutors, the administration came up with a draft law that would effectively revoke the nomination and put the government in charge of the process.

PM Janša and justice minister Dikaučič on an EPPO logo.
PM Janša had justice minister Marjan Dikaučič rubberstamp EPPO volte-face

The main takeaway here is, of course, that Janša government is aiming to extinguish prosecutorial independence. The rule of law is for liberal pussies, and all that. But what is really galling is the brazen manner in which the regime of the Glorious Leader floated the idea. Namely, this head-on attack against the rule of law came less than 48 hours after justice minister Marjan Dikaučič survived a no-confidence vote.

The motion against Dikaučič was as wide-ranging as it was well-argued. Only in Muddy Hollows can a justice minister be under active investigation for tax fraud and have the balls to stay in his post. OK, so maybe not just in Muddy Hollows, but you get the picture…

Gaping hole

But in part, the no-confidence vote driven by the whole EPPO shitshow. It was widely understood that the main reason the Glorious Leader relented and gave his nod to the two EPPO delegated prosecutors was to close off a gaping hole in an already feeble defence of the minister.

This proved critical. Dikaučič only stayed on because the opposition was four votes short of an absolute majority (46 votes) needed to kick him out of office. The final result was 42-28, with a number of pro-government MPs (NSi and most of DeSUS) abstaining. I mean, only 28 votes in direct support of the minister, that is… bad. And had the affront to the EPPO and the rule of law remained in place, the whole thing just might have played out differently. We will never know.

But the moment Dikaučič was safe and the Glorious Leader did not have to worry about finding a replacement minister lest his government ceased to be, it was time to do a volte-face.

Bucket of cold sick

Seemingly out of nowhere, a draft law appeared that would completely upend the general nomination procedure for state prosecutors. Crucially, it would take the Prosecutorial Council (an independent body) out of the equation and put everything under government control.

This obviously went down like a bucket of cold sick with any self-respecting legal and political science expert. Especially given that the constitution and supporting legislation have a thing or two to say about prosecutorial independence. But given that state prosecutors investigate corruption, abuse of powers and failure to execute (that is, things Janša and his people are likely to be investigated for, if and when they’re run out of office), this reeks of stacking the deck.

In this manner Dikaučič, knowing full well what Janša wants him to do, would be able to install loyalists in operative positions. Months and even years later, these people would then be able to slow-walk investigations against the Glorious Leader and his monkey-boys.

And adding a fuck-you-and-you-and-especially-you moment, the draft law includes a provision that would annul existing Slovenian appointments to the EPPO and repeat the selection procedure. This time, obviously, with Glorious Leader running the show.

You know, just to make a point.

Untrustworthy government

Because it is Glorious Leader running the show. Not that this comes a surprise to anyone, but Marjan Dikaučič is little more than a walking rubber stamp. His role as a minister is simply to do as he is told. Which is precisely the way PM Janša likes his ministers. No wonder he wanted Dikaučič to remain in his post.

This, of course, is a blatant affront to the rule of law in general and the independence of the Slovenian Office of State Prosecutor and the EPPO in particular. Moreover, it is now glaringly obvious that the government of Janez Janša simply cannot be trusted.

In the last couple of weeks, Marshal Twito seemed to be pulling back on a number of fronts. Most notably, he stopped defunding the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and stopped obstructing the appointment of Slovenian EPPO prosecutors. But the minute he achieved his short term goals in regard to the latter he performed a volte-face and went about undoing what he had just agreed to. And, of course, en passant undoing what little there was left of his credibility.

It goes without saying that Janša had and continues to have too many open battlefields at home and abroad. His constant one-upmanship against the opposition and the EU had left him dangerously overstretched and what had transpired over the course of the last few weeks was a direct result of this.

Carte blanche to undo the prosecution

Now, there is an important detail that must not be overlooked. While the law was apparently drafted, the draft was not yet approved by the government. It had, in American parlance, not yet become bill. Apparently, there were some last minute misgivings among coalition partners over the optics of these shenanigans.

However, one should not read too much into this, nor hope that cooler heads will prevail. Because there is only one head that counts in that government. The rest are just talking heads.

So what is likely to happen is that a revised draft will be submitted. Perhaps without the most jarring affronts (say, recalling the two EPPO prosecutors), but with most provisions intact. This way, the Backstreet Boys over at the NSi can claim that they’ve extracted concessions and managed to do nothing less than defend the EU, while Marshal Twito still gets what he really wants: a carte blanche to dismantle the national prosecution.

Cynical ploy

Broadly speaking however, there are two ways to look at all of this. The optimistic interpretation states that international pressure had borne fruit and that Janez Janša has indeed backed down. This could have been a tactical retreat, to clean up his act for the coming election. It could also have been a realisation by the Glorious Leader that he needs to pick his battles more carefully. And yes, this is a really optimistic way of looking at things.

However, the pessimistic – and, frankly, more likely – scenario is that this is all just a cynical ploy to make everyone else drop their guard and then stab them in the back. The move to undo prosecutorial independence and EPPO nominations suggests exactly that.

Under this scenario, no-one is safe. The EPPO nominations could be revoked. So could be the just-agreed financing of the public Slovenian Press Agency (STA). In fact, given what is going on with RTV Slovenia right now, the a renewed assault on public media outlets in general seems almost a given.

No wonder the level of trust in the government is so deep underwater. Nothing these jokers say or do can be taken at face value anymore.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.